by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 9th 2010 1:55pm
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Nov 18th 2010 9:21am
from the but-are-they-the-same-people? dept
Reddit makes me like people I've never met, while Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life.While I believe the quote actually started with Twitter in place of Reddit, there's certainly an element of truth there (no matter which service you're talking about). Mathew Ingram points us to an excellent listing of some amazing stories of altruism performed by the Reddit community. The post lists out 25 separate -- and often quite amazing -- stories of true altruism from the Reddit community. It's really quite an uplifting piece, and if you've spent time in the Reddit community, you're sure to recognize many of these stories.
It's also a nice antidote to all the claims we hear from people who think that the "online mobs" out there only perform acts of malice and attacks. Of course, stories of such things are often dominated by stories of sites like 4chan. But what really strikes me about all of this is that in my experience, it often feels like there are many of the same people who hang out on both sites. While I'm sure there are many who spend time on one or the other, in the Venn Diagram of both communities, I would imagine there's a fair bit of overlap. And yet, people always talk about how the 4chan (mainly /b/) community is the worst of the worst when it comes to doing despicable things, and here's a situation in which perhaps the very same people are seen doing amazing things. There's even one "crossover" story, involving a situation that originated on 4chan, where someone had posted an image of an upcoming 90th birthday party of a guy who... looked a bit lonely in the picture (his family later denied this...). However, both the 4chan and the Reddit communities jumped onto this and decided to "cheer the guy up," sending him tons of presents, and even having a bunch of folks (from both communities) show up at his party.
I'm not sure exactly what this all means, but it does seem like the rather simplistic story you often hear in the media about the "hurtful" nature of online communities is often ignoring that the very same people can be amazingly helpful at times as well.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 16th 2010 7:21am
from the this-will-not-end-well dept
Not surprisingly, the article notes that "lawsuit lending is a child of the subprime revolution," and often the lenders charge ridiculous interest rates, rather than being willing to just take a direct cut of any winnings. And, of course, these days, with the mortgage space being a weak investment, banks have to find somewhere new to put their money, and apparently lawsuits are attractive to some. The whole thing seems so open to abuse and excess that it seems likely that we're going to be hearing a lot more stories of lawsuit lending... and the resulting problems it causes.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Oct 21st 2010 2:05am
from the free-speech-isn't-free-when-a-celebrity's-involved dept
Gardner does a good job highlighting folks on all sides of the publicity rights debate, starting with a lawyer who's made quite a career out of it, who admits to trolling the internet for anyone using a client's name on their website in a way that he might claim they're getting an unfair commercial advantage. That same lawyer, at the end of the article, admits that there's probably a big First Amendment "slippery slope" problem, but he doesn't seem too bothered by it.
But those First Amendment issues are pretty big. As publicity rights claims have become more popular, they're constantly being stretched and expanded:
Most especially, practitioners believe this area has grown hot because of a lack of acknowledged boundaries. A combination of generous laws, ambitious plaintiffs and no consistent bright-line defenses against claims means that attorneys are free to take rights conferred, find jurisdictions where the protections are most generous, and make a claim.And when something is impeded only by a lawyer's imagination, serious problems come up, leading to all sorts of wacky lawsuits:
"The sky's the limit," says Indiana University law professor Marshall Leaffer. "Over the years, we've seen publicity rights claims being made on someone's voice, on a golfer's swing, even on a sports car identified with a particular racer. A person's likeness covers a lot. Rights of publicity claims are seemingly impeded only by a lawyer's imagination."
Over the years, there have been a number of famous envelope-pushing cases: In a 1985 case, Woody Allen sued over a look-alike in a commercial; Bette Midler later sued over a sound-alike in a commercial; Vanna White brought a VCR manufacturer to court in 1991 after it depicted in a commercial a futuristic Wheel of Fortune host as a robot in a blond wig; in 1993 the actors who played Norm and Cliff in Cheers sued Paramount Pictures for licensing look-alike robots at airport bars around the world; in 2001, the estate of the Three Stooges won a suit filed against a celebrity lithographer for depicting them as "art" on T-shirts; and in 2007, Major League Baseball lost a suit against a provider of fantasy sports games over the use of names and statistics of its ballplayers.Of course, a big part of the problem is judges willing to decide these cases with questionably weak First Amendment reviews, such as the recent ruling by a judge in Tennessee saying that a film about a public figure "isn't necessarily protected under the First Amendment."
In recent months, the group No Doubt sued video game publisher Activision because it was troubled that game-players could make lead singer Gwen Stefani's avatar do obnoxious theatrics--like singing about sleeping with prostitutes. The rapper 50 Cent sued Taco Bell over an unlicensed promotion where the fast-food chain asked him to change his name for one day to 79 Cent, 89 Cent or 99 Cent--the cost of its menu items. And, perhaps most infamously, Lindsay Lohan sued E-Trade over a Super Bowl commercial that depicted a "milkaholic" baby named Lindsay, who the actress claimed had been based on news of her troubles with the law.
And, of course, you can't forget the lawyers who are clearly in this to make a quick buck:
Just as important, in many states such as California, defendants often must pay attorney fees to the plaintiff if a claim is successful.There's a ton more in the article, including how some are using publicity rights claims to effectively "hide" other types of cases (defamation, trademark, etc.) that have much more solid legal boundaries, where those actual claims wouldn't succeed, but with this wide open field...
"That's pretty delicious," says Neville Johnson, an entertainment lawyer in Beverly Hills.... "The more you fight us, the more you'll have to dig into your pocketbook. This certainly represents a growth area for our firm."
If you're interested in these issues, and believe in the First Amendment, Gardner's full article is well worth reading. It's certainly another area of so-called "intellectual property" stepping in and interfering with the basics of free expression.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 4th 2010 3:24pm
from the abusing-the-system dept
In our recent post about Erich Spangenberg, he admitted that was part of his reasoning. After working for a big law firm for a bit, he decided it was more lucrative to own the patents and sue everyone himself, rather than just being a lawyer working for others. In that article, Spangenberg also mentioned that Micron had recently sold a bunch of patents to a well-known patent attorney, John Desmarais. That story is now getting more attention, as Bloomberg has an entire article about Desmarais jumping ship from his big law firm to buy 4,500 patents from Micron and put them into a new firm that will be used to demand money from lots of tech companies.
It's hard to read the article and not be depressed. Here's someone who clearly knows how the system is being abused, and rather than fight for a better system, he decides to abuse the system himself. Such is the state of our broken patent system.